By Jim Smith
As a tire industry journalist, I have been on dozens of tire introduction events. Some have been particularly memorable, usually for some odd occurrence or weather problem. None, though, included a serious wildfire in a tough mountain range.
Hankook Tire America invited media and dealers up to Big Bear Lake, a 17,000-resident ski resort community high up in the San Bernardino Mountains outside of Los Angeles. And by “high up” I mean 7,500 feet above sea level, parked along 400 miles of off-road trails that wind through a national forest. Big Bear Lake is entirely man-made, and the men who made it made out quite well financially.
The Big Bear community is ultra-rustic, and basically shuts down when the snow isn’t flying. When snow comes, not only do the skiers come out, but all manner of trail-tough off-road trucks – many used for rescues or utility repairs – also come out.
Did I mention the wildfires? Just before our late September arrival, the bone-dry mountains had been well-scorched by a series of wicked, fast-moving fires (not the ones that struck San Diego and areas around Los Angeles), and fire crews were still at work as we wound our way up the range to the Big Bear area.
With the fires pretty much damped when we arrived, there was no real danger.
The atmosphere, however, added a certain extra to the day-long event, where we put Hankook’s new Dynapro ATm RF10 through its on- and off-road paces. Over the course of three weeks, Hankook hosted dozens of dealers and media, turning the driving portion of the program over to pro driver and TV host Don Alexander, and experienced off-roader and British marque-aficionado Malcolm Buckeridge.
Using completely stock SUVs (Nissan Xterra and Jeep FJ Cruiser), the first driving portion of the event took us down and back up one of the pair of two-lane roads that service the Big Bear area.
With Alexander at the wheel of one of the vehicles, we literally zipped down the road, taking the often-tight turns at higher than advisable speeds. With us media types at the helm, well, things were a bit different. Some tried to match Alexander’s rate, which proved to be a poor decision as evidenced by a partial spin and near miss with a guard rail separating our two tons of metal shell from a considerable drop.
The second part of our day-long drive took us up some of those 400+ miles of off-road trails. Some are quite easy, others far more difficult.
We didn’t take the Bunny Slope by any means, but our trails still had a good bit of sharp irregular rocks, loose gravel and soil, and small boulders to pass over.
Aired down to 19 psi, the Dynapro ATm RF10s got a good workout.
Amazingly, Hankook used but one set of the tires on each vehicle for the entire three-week period. Normally, multiple sets of tires will see duty for such events as the host tiremaker tries to put its best foot forward.
Over three straight weeks of daily use, these sets of tires had been aired down and back up dozens of times, rolled over miles of off-road trail, and had been pushed pretty hard on the public roads.
Hankook had some of its engineers on hand to monitor the program and deliver details about the new light truck/SUV radial line.
The Hankook Dynapro ATm RF10 is available in a range 29 LT-metric and flotation sizes covering 15- to 22-inch wheel diameters. The three flotation sizes and one 15-inch LT-metric come with six plies, while the remaining sizes come with eight or 10 plies.
The on-/off-road tread features deep wave kerfs and angled self-cleaning grooves for wet, snow and mud traction, zig-zag tread block shapes for added tractive edges, tiered side grooves for cornering, a tread that is 7%-8% wider than comparable tires, a tread compound formulated to resist tearing and cutting, a “wrap around tread” that extends down the sidewall for traction and protection against bruising and impact breaks, and stone ejectors in the tread. The tire also features rim protectors near the bead, a reinforced undertread for stability and durability, jointless bead wire and extra thick sidewall rubber to protect from damage and bead separation, a “new inflated tire profile” that Hankook claims puts more rubber on the road for traction and performance, and a computer designed tread element pitch sequence to reduce road noise.
The M&S-rated tire is available with raised black or outline white sidewall lettering.
For additional information on products offered by Hankook Tire, visit www.hankooktireusa.com.